The 2004 Hall of Fame results have already been announced. And no, I'm not technically a member of the BBWA, which means I'm not technically allowed to vote for Baseball's Hall of Fame. And yes, there is technically a restraining order prohibiting me from going within 10 miles of Cooperstown because of the incident at last year's induction ceremonies involving a blond wig, a tube of lipstick and Mitch Albom's press pass.
But while not I'm not yet a member of the Baseball Writer's Association, I one day hope to be. And in that vein, I decided that I wanted to put together my own little Hall of Fame ballot, even if I came to that decision way too late.
Paul Molitor- One of two obvious selections. The only real argument against Molitor is that he's one of those "Hall of Famer, but not a first ballot Hall of Famer" types. Due respect to those making the argument, but that's as preposterous an idea as any I've heard in my life-time, right up there with "Neifi Perez: Starting Shortstop" and "Keanu Reeves: Actor!"
3,000 hits get him in, sure. The 122 OPS+ helps a good amount. He was a DH for a large portion of his career, but he also played a lot of games in the field, games where he put up excellent numbers. He's a career value sort of guy with a pretty solid peak as well.
Ryne Sandberg - the other patently obvious selection and one who for some unknown reason didn't make it into the Hall last year; didn't make it this year either. But he was THE pre-eminent second baseman of the 1980s, a frightening combination of power, speed and batting average ability. He was a fine defensive player who was in 10 All-Star games. He won an MVP. His career OPS+ of 114 is more than excellent for a second baseman. Should be a slam dunk; the aborted retirement/comeback is probably unduly harming him.
Burt Blyleven- I've often wondered why Blyleven isn't yet in the Hall of Fame. I've pondered and I've pondered, and I've finally figured it out:
The BBWA hates the Dutch.
Blyleven has this reputation of not being "a winner", as opposed to infinitely inferior pitcher Jack Morris, who has turned one thoroughly brilliant World Series start into a legitimate Hall of Fame campaign. Ignoring for a second the fact that W/L record is a pretty pathetic way to judge a pitcher, why do the Blyleven detractors ignore his excellent (if limited) postseason work?
This is a guy who finished in the Top 10 in ERA in 10 different seasons; in the top 10 for innings pitched 11 times. In a 22 year career, he was in the league's K/9 top 10 14 times; 15 times he was one of the top 10 strikeout artists in the league. In fact, he's 5th on the all-time strikeout list. He was in his league's top 10 in ERA+ 11 times. Eight of the 10 most similar pitchers on his baseball-reference page are in the Hall of Fame; that's not such a meaningful thing, but it's worth mentioning.
So basically you've got an innings eating strikeout artist who can also prevent runs from scoring. He did it over the span of 22 years. He has longevity and he has peak value.
The one thing he doesn't have, and the one thing that he should have, is a Hall of Fame plaque.
Just a Bit Outside…
The Reliever Quartet: Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Lee Smith
But when I looked at him, I just couldn't get over the idea that there just wasn't enough longevity there, barely. His peak was amazing, of course; especially nice is the 1977 season with Pittsburgh, where he threw 133 innings at an ERA+ of 246. The 1975, 77 and 78 campaigns highlight the best of Gossage: dominance when he pitched with a lot of high leverage innings pitched. But after 1978 too many of his excellent campaigns came with innings totals more in-line with modern closers; two more years like 75, 77 or 78 and I'd write him in. Maybe even one more. But there just isn't enough there for me.
Sutter is kind of similar; he was dominant right off the bat and stayed that way for eight seasons. But are eight seasons of very good pitching, five truly great years, enough to make it? I don't think so.
Smith is more of a longevity case than Sutter or Gossage, obviously. In my mind he has too many years has a one inning, ninth-inning specialist, and not enough years like 1983. Not so close as Gossage and Sutter, but a more than respectable Hall of Fame candidate.
And this brings us to Eckersley, who made it into the real Hall easily, but didn't quite make it on my ballot. He was closer than I thought, and I agonized over him for awhile as well. But in the end, when you look at Eck you're basically looking at six exceptional seasons as a ninth-inning specialist and four excellent seasons as a starter. If he had one more excellent season as a starter, or two more exceptional closing seasons, he would be in with me. But he doesn't, so for now I'm going to say that he's not Hall-worthy.
Sort of Honorable Mentions
Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and Steve Garvey were all excellent players who for various reasons came up fairly well-short of reaching my ballot. Rice and Dawson have OBP and longevity issues, especially Rice, who also grounded into too many DPs and didn't run nearly well enough. Garvey had a nice, long peak, and was fairly consistent. But poor OBPs and some rough seasons of his own in grounding into Double Plays keeps him out on my ballot.
One Writer's (Irrelevant) Hall of Fame Ballot
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